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Transcript of ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’for Thursday, February 19
MADDOW: It is never too soon after the last presidential election to start thinking about the next presidential election—especially if you are a Republican who is no longer a senator and who, therefore, has really no political power at all and nothing to do.
Let‘s look in on the “GOP in Exile.”
MADDOW: Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is apparently on a college tour right now, giving students lectures about what he thinks is actually going on in the Muslim world. His latest stop, the University of Nebraska, where according to the “Daily Nebraskan,” Senator Santorum tried to impress upon the audience the importance of his insight that Muslims take their religious texts literally.
The “Daily Nebraskan” quotes Senator Santorum saying, quote, “A Democracy could not exist because Mohammed already made the perfect law. The Quran is perfect just the way it is. That‘s why it is only written in Islamic.” Right. And of course, the Torah was written in Jewish and we are broadcasting right here right now in American.
We contacted Senator Santorum‘s office today to see if the “Daily Nebraskan” got his views right. His staff explained he was just explaining the views of the jihadists. OK then.
It‘s not just Rick Santorum, though. For many conservatives, Islam has become something of a cottage industry in the past 7 ½ years, specifically exposing Islam. Leaders like Mike Huckabee and like George W. Bush have tried to popularize terms like “Islamofascism.” A term that craftily implies that Muslims are all radicals bent on destruction. Some, of course, are, but way fewer than all.
There was the whisper campaign that Barack Obama was a Muslim which craftily implied that he was therefore not to be trusted. And you may recall Pastor Rod Parsley, who endorsed John McCain for president.
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PASTOR ROD PARSLEY, WORLD HARVEST CHURCH: Islam is an antichrist religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world.
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MADDOW: Senator McCain did later reject Rod Parsley‘s endorsement, perhaps fearing that a fear campaign was unwise. But has this become part of how the Republican Party is defining itself in opposition?
Joining us now is my friend, Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy. He is a Baptist minister from the great state of Louisiana. He‘s also president of the Interfaith Alliance.
Reverend Gaddy, it is great to see you. Thanks for being on the show tonight.
REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE PRESIDENT: Hi, Rachel.
Good to see you.
MADDOW: What is your reaction to what the “Daily Nebraskan” quotes Senator Santorum as having said?
GADDY: Well, I would think, first of all, if you are going to do a college tour, you might get the language thing a little bit closer to right. Secondly, Rachel, it‘s more of the same. What the religious right has done from the very beginning that is most detrimental to the nation and probably most detrimental to religion, is that it has measured spirituality and authenticity of spirituality, whatever the religion, not by the criteria of religion but by loyalty that is political in nature and directed to sociopolitical issues.
That‘s what Santorum is doing here. And to simplify what happens there, if you don‘t agree with me, you‘re wrong and I‘ll attack you.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of that—defining that loyalty, in terms of judging religions, judging religious belief, judging religious practice—is it to make a political point? What I‘m worried about here, it‘s not just Senator Santorum having said something dumb and offensive, but the idea that there maybe a sort of developing cottage industry in right-wing politics in America to expose Islam, to attack Islam as a religion as if it needs to be debunked in some way?
GADDY: Yes, there‘s no—there is no question that that‘s true. And that gets reflected in some of the alarming polling figures about anti-Islamic feelings even in mainstream America. The idea is, that we come at this from both a religious and a political perspective as right-wing Christians in America, primarily right-wing Christians, and primarily Republicans as a matter of fact. However, you come at this to debunk the religion which gives authority to the political perspective.
And, Rachel, what bothers me about this and particularly when this kind of pejorative stuff goes on in the name of religion, I was in the Middle East this past week, at a conference in Doha, Qatar, with a lot of Muslim people for U.S. Islam Conference. When you look at what‘s going on there, the number of displaced people, the two wars that are going on and a third one breeding, all of the kinds of problems with the economy related to young people in the Middle East and so forth, it looks to me like—genuine religious people, out of the compassion of their hearts, would be looking for ways to make common ground with everybody there in order to correct these screaming problems.
MADDOW: Welton, how do you feel about President Obama‘s efforts on religious and policy issues so far? He has decided to hold on to a version of George W. Bush‘s faith-based initiative office.
GADDY: Rachel, I‘m disappointed. I had conferences with the Obama transition team. I said right up front, I think that was a mistake. There are errors there that are not going to get corrected, I fear. Right now, the Obama policy with the faith-based initiative is still following the Bush policies because they haven‘t been changed.
There are two major areas which I hope the Obama administration will change. One has to do with direct funding of sectarian organizations by federal funds. That can be changed fairly easily by requiring recipients to make a 501c3 organization out of its entity, putting up a firewall between that organization and government. Second, is getting rid of those organizations being able to receive federal funds and then break civil rights laws and discriminate in employment practices and sometimes among recipients. Those have to be changed.
There is a partnership that can exist and exist well between religion and government and their agencies, but it is going to take a relationship defined by law held to accountable standards that lets religion be religion and government be government, and not try to mix the two.
MADDOW: Which is the thing that is best for both we‘ve learned through history.
MADDOW: Reverend Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance –
thank you so much for joining us, Welton. It‘s great to see you.
GADDY: Rachel, you, too. Thanks.
MADDOW: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he will participate in Senator Pat Leahy‘s proposed truth commission to look into alleged Bush administration crimes. The last time he was at the witness table, Mr. Gonzales caught a major case of amnesia, sputtering variations of “I don‘t recall” 64 times.
So, will there be a truth commission? Will Gonzales recall if called? And—is it possible that it will be too late to prosecute at that point in any case? Much more on that—coming up.